Domestic travel across Malaysia is prohibited from today until January 26 in a bid to arrest the rising number of Covid-19 infections, with potential for extension subject to risk assessments before the ban expires.
Besides a ban on interstate travel, social activities involving mass gatherings are also not allowed in all states except for Sarawak and Perlis – two states that have recorded fewer number of new infections. Social gatherings in the two states are subjected to strict standard operating procedures.
Face-to-face business events are temporarily impacted too.
Residents of Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and Sabah as well as the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya face further inter-district travel restrictions as these regions are regarded as “high risk states” and healthcare services are almost stretched to their limits.
The Movement Control Order (MCO) enforced on these states and the Federal Territories is similar to the strict conditions imposed from March 18 to May 4, 2020, where residents were only allowed to move within 10km of their home and only two people were allowed to travel to purchase groceries.
In a televised address to the nation, Malaysia prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government had decided to take these strict measures to break the chain of transmission of Covid-19 infection, thus reducing the number of daily positive cases to a more manageable level.
He said that the country’s healthcare system was “at breaking point”.
“In the Klang Valley, the rate of ICU bed use for Covid-19 patients at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital and the University of Malaya Medical Centre had reached 100 per cent while at the Sungai Buloh Hospital it has reached 83 per cent. The rate of use of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in Perak, Selangor, Melaka, Terengganu and Sarawak has exceeded 70 per cent,” he elaborated.
Malaysia reported 2,232 new Covid-19 infections on January 11, 2021, and four fatalities, bringing the death toll nationwide to 555.
While travel and tourism leaders expressed understanding for the need to curb infections, they also urged the government to appreciate the resulting impact on an already distressed industry.
Malaysian Association of Hotels CEO, Yap Lip Seng, said: “We need to stress on the need for the government to make the right decision in balancing lives (and) livelihood. With the…MCO implementations, businesses are again expected to lose all revenue streams.
“The government must support the industry and its people. With little or no revenue, businesses will not be able to retain its people, will not be able to pay salaries, and will have no option but to let go of its employees.”
Yap underlined the urgent need for a wage subsidy structure of 50 per cent for employees within a pay structure of RM4,000 (US$988) and 30 per cent for those earning up to RM8,000.
Malaysia Budget Hotel Association national deputy president, Sri Ganesh Michiel, also urged government understanding and assistance.
Meanwhile, Uzaidi Udanis, president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, advised members to adapt to the new situation, pivot their businesses towards digitalisation, and step up on hygiene procedures to rebuild customer confidence.